Healthcare Costs for Illegals Are Staggering

Monday, 21 Apr 2008 10:27 AM

By James Walsh

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"There are lies, damned lies, and statistics."

— Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister, 1868; 1874–80

Politicians, urged on by radical liberals, bemoan the lack of healthcare for more and more millions of Americans.

In recent years, their guestimates have ranged from 35 million to 45.8 million uninsured. In time for the 2008 elections, they have settled on 47 million uninsured men, women, and children (equal to 16 percent of the total U.S. population).

No distinction is made among uninsured U.S. citizens, legal immigrants, and illegal aliens. While the Democratic candidates for the presidency insist that their proposed healthcare plans do not cover illegal aliens, they fail to mention the existing federal laws that do. If the federal estimate of 12 million illegal aliens residing in the United States turns out to be a gross undercount, and the actual number is more like 30 million, then the number of uninsured U.S. citizens, rather than 47 million, may be down to 15 million, many of whom are uninsured by choice.

Many opt out of health plans, because they simply do not want to pay the premiums, considering themselves young, healthy, and indestructible. Others opt out because they expect the government to take care of them, even when they engage in high-risk behavior; this group has bought into a welfare state mentality. Others, for cultural reasons, frown on healthcare and mistrust healthcare systems.

Healthcare advocates have at their finger tips endless statistics to support their contention that the nation really needs socialized medicine.

None dare question the underlying data for these escalating numbers of the uninsured or the methodology used to obtain these numbers. If illegal aliens form the largest part of the estimated 47 million uninsured, it is a fact glossed over by healthcare advocates and politicians.

Universal healthcare advocates choose to ignore current health and welfare programs for the poor and suggest lack of financial resources as the main reason for being uninsured.

Democratic office seekers are known to create strawmen to take the blame, such as language and literacy barriers to health insurance. During the past 40 years, billions upon billions of U.S. dollars have been spent on public education, and naturalized citizens are required by federal law to read, write, and speak English.

Meanwhile, the uncounted ghost population of illegal aliens is responsible for a steady assault on U.S. healthcare. According to the Spring 2005 Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, the casualties from this assault include the shutdown of many emergency-room services, the degradation of medical delivery systems, the harboring and spread of infectious diseases long eradicated in the United States, and the exhaustion of medical providers from an overload of uninsured, non-English-speaking patients.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO), the agency tasked by Congress to make studies and reports to Congress in response to congressional requests, has a reputation for objective reporting. In 2006 and 2007 reports, the GAO made pointed references to the current and future impact of illegal aliens on U.S. healthcare costs and services.

The reports noted that calculations and statistics could not guarantee estimated counts of the “undocumented” population and the risks of this population to major federal program costs. The GAO concluded that illegal immigration is having adverse effects, depressing wages of low-skilled workers and making illegal aliens twice as likely to live in poverty as native and naturalized citizens. The September 2007 GAO report estimated that U.S. healthcare costs, present and future, will run in the trillions of dollars.

Federal Laws Authorizing Healthcare for Illegal Aliens

Current federal laws authorize healthcare services, free of charge, for men, women, and children, including those who reside in the United States in violation of U.S. immigration laws. The unintended consequence of such programs is that they act as a pull in the push-pull forces of immigration. The more the United States provides, the more immigrants will come — illegally if need be. Here is some of the most prominent legislation.

Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act of 1986 (EMTALA). Congress passed EMTALA in 1986 to provide uninsured people, regardless of citizenship, with medical care in hospital emergency rooms, including delivery costs for illegal alien mothers and their “anchor” babies. The law, however, has remained an unfunded mandate — authorizing healthcare but failing to come through with federal funding. As a result, hospitals and doctors must bear the costs of treatment to uninsured illegal aliens.

Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA). Congress passed IIRIRA in 1996 to authorize reimbursement of public hospitals and certain non-profit hospitals for emergency medical assistance to illegal aliens.

EMTALA and IIRIRA, however, failed to define “emergency,” and thus emergency room staffs are treating illegal aliens with hangnails, coughs, cardiac arrest, drug addiction, alcohol poisoning, gunshot wounds (with gang violence on the rise), HIV infections, mental and emotional disorders, auto accident injuries, births — the list goes on.

These federal laws dictate that emergency care must progress until the affliction is stabilized and the patient discharged. Ambulance service is included for the girls and women who cross the U.S.-Mexican border illegally to give birth to the 400,000 anchor babies delivered at U.S. hospitals each year. Hospitals are declaring bankruptcy and closing their doors because of the federal healthcare laws.

Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA). One section of PRWORA, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), in effect since the Social Security Act of 1935. Despite President Bill Clinton’s promise to “end welfare as we know it,”

PRWORA is just another congressional giveaway to illegal aliens who also receive assistance from SSI (supplemental security income), food stamps, and WCI (women, children, infants) benefits.

Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003. Congress authorized $1 billion for this law (PL108-173) to reimburse U.S. hospitals for treating illegal aliens. Healthcare for the illegal aliens and their families, including anchor baby deliveries is projected to exceed $2 billion by the end of 2008.

Children’s Health Insurance Program and Re-authorization Act of 2007 (CHIPAR). In October 2007, both chambers of Congress passed CHIPAR to lower the proof of citizenship requirements for Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), making it easier for illegal aliens to obtain benefits.

CHIPAR also negates the welfare reform legislation of 1996 and parts of the Social Security Act, including citizenship requirements for the Medicaid Program.

Cost to Taxpayers

Taxpayers are being asked to foot the bill for healthcare that is already “universal,” as it provides healthcare for anyone in the universe who can make it across a U.S. border.

Minnesota, in 2004, had some 85,000 illegal aliens. A 2005 report, “The Impact of Illegal Immigration on Minnesota,” was requested by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn., because of substantial challenges raised by illegal immigration. The report concluded that undocumented immigrants cost Minnesota healthcare assistance programs $35.5 million in fiscal year 2005.

In Oklahoma, a 2007 report on illegal alien issues showed that 4,450 illegal aliens in the state received Medicaid services in fiscal year 2006 at a cost of $9.7 million. In a three year period, the healthcare for illegal aliens in the state tripled, while the number of illegal aliens receiving free healthcare doubled.

Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas, has attempted to collect the millions of dollars owed it for services to illegal aliens during the past 20 years. The hospital administration sent payment demands to Mexico and other countries for reimbursement for care of their nationals. Mexico responded through a diplomat who cited the invoice as “an act of discrimination.” Mexico has inculcated in its people a belief that they have all the rights of U.S. citizens, and the U.S. Congress has obliged.

It is high time for U.S. politicians to answer questions about healthcare costs, the scope of healthcare, and the impacts of healthcare for illegal aliens. The current mish-mash of confused, contradictory, and unfunded federal healthcare legislation is a major factor in soaring healthcare costs, which are triggering a decline in the standard of care for U.S. citizens.

The United States spends an estimated 16 percent of its gross national product on healthcare — more than any other country. Governmental gridlock and partisan pandering to a socialized medicine lobby have prevented a solution to soaring health care costs and are weakening a vulnerable Social Security system.

Sen. Barack Obama, in a debate sponsored by the Democratic Party in January 2008, said he would not include illegal aliens in his proposed healthcare program, because, as he stated, “We can’t afford it.” Several of Obama’s closest mentors and advisers, however, are radical liberals who support socialized medicine. Sen. Hillary Clinton also claims that her universal healthcare program will not cover illegal aliens; yet her top Hispanic advisor, Raul Yzaguirre (formerly of La Raza, a radical Hispanic rights organization) is a proponent of open borders and has a long history of seeking free healthcare and special tuition breaks for students in the United States illegally.

Both Obama and Clinton are co-sponsors of the Civil Rights Act of 2008 introduced by Sen. Teddy Kennedy, D-Mass., and designed to override the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court limiting the rights of illegal aliens to back pay when discharged from jobs in the United States. Chapter 1 of the act is entitled, “Protection for Undocumented Workers.” If a Democrat is elected U.S. President in 2008, look for universal health care to be mandatory for U.S. citizens and non-citizens alike and to be far more costly than the candidates’ estimates.

Yes — there are lies, damned lies, and statistics ingeniously woven in political rhetoric.

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